Questions from Blog Readers

Questions Concerning Grief

What are some of the feelings that a spouse expresses after their husband or wife passes?

At first, most are just numb: they cry and are surprised it really happened (because people we know and love aren't going to die, other people die. Even when we are told a loved one is dying a part of us doesn't believe it). Now we know it is true but we go on automatic pilot. I have written more information on feelings of grief in the booklet My Friend, I Care: The Grief Experience.

I remember one man whose wife just died. We were waiting for the funeral home to arrive. He was crying and saying, "I don't know how I am going to live without her." What he explained was that (on top of his unconscious emotional grief) he didn't know how to cook or do laundry. What he was really saying was, “Who is going to take care of me?”

What are some of the feelings that children or siblings express when their loved one passes?

I can't really answer this because it would depend on the age and maturity level of the child. Children are often relegated to the periphery when death is imminent. It is well meaning, from a sense of protecting them, but can be harmful in the memories and misconceptions that result.

Is it normal for a person to still be mourning several years later?

There isn't really a time frame on grief. Each person has their own journey. Each person must learn to go on living: to develop a life without the person who died. While there is a process to grieving there is no magic 366th day when it is over. The pain is never "over" but time tends to fill in the space between the pain of loss and the memories.

All that said some people get stuck in their grief. Stuck for various reasons: “Good mileage” for attention; lack of ability to move forward and create a new life; a pathological relationship with the deceased, to name a few. Find the reason and council on that not on the death. The grieving becomes the vehicle, not the source of the disfunction.

To directly answer this question I would look at the definition of "still mourning" to see if they are indeed stuck. Again, read My Friend, I Care. See where the person is in the process of grief and then evaluate to see if the grief has become pathological.

How do you keep from getting depressed? How do you help others from getting depressed?

Depressed in relation to what? Depressed because someone close to them has died? If they were jumping up and down with joy, I would consider that a problem. Depression in grief is normal and natural. It is very much a part of the grieving process. It will disappear with time in most situations.

You can't keep a person from getting depressed. They are sad, their life has changed, they have to figure out how to live without the person who has died. They will be depressed. Though difficult, we “watchers” need to accept that for a period of time depression is a part of normal grieving.

Question to the Blog: I read somewhere that the reason it is hard to close someone's eyelids at the time of death is because the eyeballs have sunk into the skull after fat pads in the back of the eyes shrink. Does this happen? I would like to know evidence of this. Have not seen in print except once.

I don't know why the eye lids stay partially open at death, I just know that they do. The eye lids are not wide open but partially open, sometimes unevenly open, or one eye open and the other eye closed. The eye lids do not look like the person is just sleeping.

If you try to close the eyelids they will just partially open up again. I personally think it takes energy to keep your eyes open and energy to keep them closed. When there is no energy or tension left in the body the eyelids ease into a partially open place.

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